Sheepskin Boots and Sailboats

San Diego — From responses I get I have noted some readers enjoy the “back story” data about some of the commercial shoots we do so here is one hot off the press – so to speak.  Sometimes working photographers actually get to do the kinds of shots most people think we do all of the time… this was one of those times.  Too bad they are so rare.

It began for me when I arrived home Sunday night from the Yosemite field trip to the welcome news that Cynthia and I had a shoot scheduled for Wednesday morning.  It was to do a cover for Boot World featuring Uggs Boots.

Typically, we had short notice, the shoot was Wednesday morning and the finals were due to be delivered in the morning the next day.  Digital experience has gotten A.D.s and photo buyers used to fast turn-around times but it definitely can sometimes work to the detriment of the final concept since there is no time to think it through in the beginning and no time to really tweak a concept other than in post production.  But that seems to be the way of the modern commercial photography world, at least in this market.

I have to confess, upon hearing what the product was to be, my initial reaction was that sheepskin lined boots and Southern California are not items that, at least to me and my land-lubber history, naturally go together.  Those boots seem to be custom made for — and more at home it, cold country with snow and skiing, etc..  I have a pair of tall sheepskin lined mukluks that are roasty-toasty in even the coldest weather, but I have found no real reasons to wear them here. However, as I asked around, it turns out, Uggs are a local fashion favorite.  Go figure…!?!?

So, hey, if someone wants to pay to have winter boots shot in a place that has no winter, and for whatever reason they are immensely popular in an area where you more often see flip-flops and sandals, it is fine with me.  Heck we could’ve even faked the snow of need be.

But to add a little to my sense of disconnect, the decision was made to do the shoot on a sail boat.  No, I am not making this up as you will see.  And, I am forced to admit, that despite my initial reaction, the decision was probably a very good one in order to create a lifestyle advertisement that associates the demographic of people who can afford to own sailboats with a product… probably ANY product, but especially one without an obvious connection.

But, as I noted, there was no time for a location scout and proper planning for a shot.  Fortunately Cynthia already had a starting concept in mind so as usual we arrived a few minutes early to check out the reality of the situation relative to a preliminary vision and make some decisions.  Thanks to her connections from all of the sailboat racing photos she does, we already had a boat donated for our use.  It was a really nice boat but also very modern looking.  Beautiful as it was, the Uggs boots seem far more earthy, visually, than modern slick fiberglass.  Perhaps the contrast would work but an older classic boat would have been nice.

It so happened that a perfect older teak boat was moored near by but although it was open we could not locate the owner.  However while we were unpacking gear at the San Diego Yacht Club in preparation for using the new boat, a Club Member that Cynthia knew from her sailboat racing work showed up and offered to let us use his very sleek older classic teak boat.

While waiting for the model and the publisher (who was bringing the product) to show up we decided on some specific shots and set about rigging and roughing in the lighting to augment and modify the sun light.  When she arrived, the model, Camille, was beautiful and the skies were perfect.  Some sport was added to the process in an environment where both the stage (the boat) and the ground (the floating dock) were moving a little.

Cynthia had done a wonderful job of wardrobe selection in addition to the location procurement.  She now quickly set to work styling the shots while, based on her input, I rigged lights and stands. Basically I planned on letting the sun be the “key” light since it was in nearly perfect position.  In addition to the natural light key, a light with standard small bowl reflector was used from screen right to put highlights in our model’s long wavy hair and a small softbox was set up to be used as a fill from the front.  We then hand-aimed a silver reflector at the boots to bring them up in tone a little.

The model had changed and the publisher arrived with some boots so Cynthia selected a pair and we were off and running. Using the boats in their slips as a background we shot about six or seven different concepts trying to balance the need to showcase the boots with the need to create a life-style ad shot in which the location would play a major narrative role.

The model was not a professional, but was very game to try and make it all work.  She was a little self-conscious around the camera at first, especially when the strobes started firing, but before long nearly forgot we were there and with Cynthia’s instructions helping her to focus, the shoot went very smoothly.

It was hard to choose a favorite but I am gravitating toward the shot where she is actually doing something you would actually do on a sailboat, start removing the sail covers.  Here is that shot…

Camille, on the dexk of the "Jane" for a Boot World Ad/Cover shot featuring Uggs boots.  Canon 5D Mk III with Canon 85mm f1.2L  THe shot is lit with sunlight as the key, a softbox Fill from the front and a second strobe adding some sparkle to the hair.  A silver fold out reflector added some light to the boots..

Camille, on the dexk of the “Jane” for a Boot World Ad/Cover shot featuring Uggs boots. Canon 5D Mk III with Canon 85mm f1.2L THe shot is lit with sunlight as the key, a softbox Fill from the front and a second strobe adding some sparkle to the hair. A silver fold out reflector added some light to the boots.  Photograph (c) N. David King for Sinclair-King Photography, 2013.

So the shoot went off without a hitch.  No person or bit of equipment went over the side into the water, and most importantly, the publisher seemed very pleased with what he was seeing us shoot.  Hopefully he will like the final images as well.

About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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